Education staffing shortage leaves curriculum work stranded 

 Development of a new curriculum for Tasmanian schools critical to addressing Year 12 attainment has “ground to a halt” due to staff shortages in key education department roles, the Australian Education Union revealed today. 

The State Government commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) in 2016 to review Years 9-12 in Tasmania, with a focus on improving retention and attainment. A revamp of the curriculum was ACER’s top recommendation. 

The Department for Education, Children and Young People (DECYP) was recently updated to say this work has been “paused,” due to, “…departmental priorities and needs.”

“Teachers who were employed to work on the curriculum project have been sent back into schools because of the staffing crisis but students need both an improved curriculum and the teachers to deliver it – it’s not ‘either or’ for a quality education,” said David Genford, AEU Tasmania President. 

“This is illustrative of the impact that underfunding and understaffing has on education when the Department cannot perform core work like curriculum development,” he said. 

“We welcome the Minister’s commitment to no budget cuts for schools, but this failure shows that any cuts, reductions, or freezes anywhere in education must be ruled out. Educators and our students need urgent investments and staff shortage solutions – from the curriculum to the classrooms.” 

“The impact of cuts, or so-called efficiency dividends, in the Education Department would ripple all the way to our already underfunded classrooms, preventing our students from achieving their potential.” 

Mr Genford said curriculum was just the tip of the iceberg caused by under resourcing with problems ranging from delays in salary payments to teacher assistants to delays in implementation of the 2023 Tasmanian Teachers Agreement. 

“School Support staff, who are stood down without pay during school holidays, frequently experience delays in their start-of-year contracts and wages because DECYP payroll already has an unmanageable workload,” he said. 

“How is the government meant to recruit and retain staff when it can’t consistently pay educator wages and allowances on time?” 

“Social Workers, senior psychologists and supports for principals are not necessarily in-school roles but critical to quality education so a promise of ‘no cuts to schools’ rings hollow if the Government fails to guarantee there will be no cuts anywhere in Education. 

“Occupational therapists, speech pathologists and psychologists may not be based in an individual school, but provide essential support to students with disabilities and help kids manage mental health issues so they can get the most out of education. 

“The impact of any budget cuts to any parts of the public education system would be disastrous and it is our kids who would ultimately suffer. 

“Ahead of the State Budget, teachers are calling on Education Minister Jo Palmer to rule out any reduction in resources or cuts anywhere in education, not just in schools.” 

The AEU’s submission to the 2024-2025 state budget, identified priority areas of investment including: 

  • Delivery of 100% of the minimum Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) to every public school and college 
  • More in-class support for teachers – additional Teacher Assistants, Support Teachers and Education Support Specialists (ESS) 
  • Ratios of 1 FTE School Psychologist and 1 FTE Social Workers for every 500 students. 
  • Increase funding and in-class support for students with disability and/or educational adjustment. 
  • A competitive wage for 52 weeks (end unpaid stand down) for Education Support Personnel (Support Staff) 
  • Increase resourcing to Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4 learning programs, and expand Tier 4 programs to Colleges.